Browsing: CD and Book Reviews

Ciel convertible / Gilbert Patenaude, music; Patrick Coppens, poetry / Self-produced, 2018 Nearly 15 years after its publication, the collection of the poet Patrick Coppens is dressed in new colors in this album with music signed by Gilbert Patenaude. The 49 texts are as many dreamlike microcosms shaped by words and rhythm, without time or place. Angels rub shoulders with toads; vampires are surprised to believe in God. The music is written for four voices: two human (Jacqueline Woodley, soprano, and Julien Patenaude, baritone) and two instrumental (Sheila Hannigan, cello, and Mariane Patenaude, piano). Piano and cello change roles according to…

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Tim Brady, Music For Large Ensemble / Bradyworks Large Ensemble, dir. Cristian Gort / Starkland ST-230, 2018 We find two Tim Brady works on this album recorded at Studio 270 a few days after their creation at the 2017 Victoriaville Music Festival. Desire is a concerto in three movements for electric guitar and chamber orchestra. The first movement, Ecstasy, features hectic minimalist writing, centered on hammered rhythmic patterns exchanged between the soloist and the orchestra. Beauty is a very evocative textural exploration; the melodic guitar seems to be making its way through an increasingly lugubrious universe, magnified by solo interventions through…

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Transient Canvas, Wired / New Focus Recordings, 2018 The latest creation of the American duo Transient Canvas, Wired continues the exploratory work undertaken by Amy Advocat (bass clarinet) and Matt Sharrock (marimba) on their first release Sift. Once again, the musicians display undeniable technical know-how, obvious complicity and an in-depth understanding of the artistic vision of the composers who contributed to Wired. Dedicated to the interpretation of current works, this duo offers seven premieres with surprisingly varied styles that boldly exploit the possibilities of two instruments to which electronic devices are added. The result is strikingly original and flirts with avant-garde…

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Mathieu: Concerto No. 4. Rachmaninoff: Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini Op. 43 / Jean-Philippe Sylvestre, piano. Orchestre Métropolitain, Alain Trudel, conductor / ATMA Classique ACD2 2768 Mathieu’s posthumous Concerto No. 4 owes much to Gilles Bellemare, who, from fragmentary sources, reconstructed and orchestrated this post romantic gem while seeking to reproduce the composer’s vision faithfully. Under Alain Trudel’s blazing baton, the piece charges forward like a locomotive, paying no heed to the superfluous or stopping stations along the way. Pianist Jean-Philippe Sylvestre navigates the piece with remarkable ease, in his element performing a work after his own heart. His…

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There were those that Stalin murdered or suppressed, those who went abroad and the few who stayed at home and kept very quiet for most of their lives. I thought I knew them all, but the New York pianist Vladimir Feltsman has put together a gallery of peripherals, each of whom adds a vital dimension to the Russian picture. Alexei Stanchinsky (1888-1914) was a Scriabin-like figure who wrote vaguely modern sonorities and suffered intermittent mental lapses. He drowned two months into the First World War, possibly a suicide. Samuel Feinberg (1890-1962) taught most of his life at the Moscow Conservatoire,…

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The conductor Hans von Bülow once described Mendelssohn’s music as ‘something to be got over in childhood, like measles’. I feel the same way about much of Mozart and listen to very little, making an exception now and then only when I have a particular purpose to study a piece – in this case, the Jupiter Symphony, Mozart’s last. It so happened that a Pentatone CD with the NDR Radiophilharmonie landed just as I was reaching up the shelf for the unassailable Abbado/LSO on DG and its arrival proved more than just instructive. The Hannover radio orchestra, not always the…

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Ever bought a record just for the opening track? You’d be sorely tempted by this offering from the Gothenburg Symphony and Herbert Blomstedt, a pairing of the second symphony by a pal of Sibelius’s with his orchestral serenade. Swedes regard Stenhammar’s 2nd, dated 1914, as their best symphony after Sibelius and some have argued the case with me alcoholically far into the unbroken winter’s night. I am not persuaded. Stenhammar might have enjoyed a drink or few with Sibelius but the most he got out of these sessions was an imitative gift and a blinding hangover. The first movement of that…

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There are so many misnomers about Ms Clarke that it’s worth taking a sentence or two to put them straight. Clarke (1886-1979) is widely regarded as one of the first English women composers. But her father was an American photographic executive, her mother was German and as soon as she reached 30 Clarke sailed off to the US to spend the better part of her life over there, playing mostly English music in a trio. Her own music is English in rather dated sense of the term, heavily reliant on folk music and simple modulations. Her viola sonata is not…

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To end the year, up pops a Mozart with five stars written all over it. As a matter of course, I do not listen to new Mozart piano releases. There is such an abundance of unsurpassed recordings on my shelves – Ashkenazy, Brendel, Gilels, Haskil, Kempff, Richter – who could ask for anything more? But I slipped on this latest offering as an early-morning tune-up and, before I knew it, I was I heaven. I am sure the good folk at DG had a go at Seong-Jin Cho not to risk Mozart at this stage, but the Chopin competition winner…

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As the year nears its end a pile of albums stares at me pleading for attention. So I dig in a find some that I cannot allow to pass unnoticed. The Alagna-Kurzak recording of Massenet’s rarely-heard La Navarraise (Warner ****). Sumptuous singing and gorgeous sound, recorded in New York wth a pick-up ensemble that sounds like it can play anything sight unseen. If you wanted to hear Bach on the piano, would you go to Iceland? Seriously? And played by the winner of the Iceland Optimism Prize? Vikingur Olafsson is altogether unexpected. His compilation of pieces by Bach, interleaved with…

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